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Green recovery from Covid could greatly reduce CO2 emissions

Although the Covid-19 pandemic had a highly disruptive effect on global health and economy, it also reduced carbon emissions in 2020 by six to seven percent. Many governments worldwide have now invested in recovery plans to stimulate the economy and support employment. However, these measures could affect emissions for years to come.

A new study led by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency has argued that, if recovery packages would focus on accelerating the transition to low-carbon energy production and improving energy efficiency in industry, a long-lasting reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from energy production and industrial processes could be achieved. According to the experts, a one percent global GDP investment could reduce global CO2 emissions by six to 8.5 percent by the end of this decade. 

“After successfully analyzing the results of the pandemic on global emissions in a previous modelling study, we thought it would be an interesting exercise to investigate the possible effects of a targeted economic recovery focused on ‘green’ measures and policies,” said study lead author Ioannis Dafnomilis, an expert in climate change mitigation at PBL. 

“At that time, governments had announced numerous recovery measures, but the focus was mostly on economic recovery in general. To our knowledge, we are still the only scientific team to investigate a green recovery from Covid using a multi-model approach.”

By focusing on investments in areas that directly support emissions reduction in energy production and industrial processes, Dr. Dafnomilis and his colleagues have modelled an investment plan over three years. The analysis revealed that even a temporary stimulus package could potentially achieve long-lasting reductions of CO2 emissions by driving the low-carbon transition in the energy, transportation, and industry sectors. 

“The share of renewables in total electricity generation is projected to increase, uptake of electric vehicles is accelerated, and energy savings in industry and building sectors lead to additional emission reductions. Our findings showcase the multiple benefits a green recovery stimulus can have, in terms of minimizing CO2 emissions from energy production and industry and upscaling low-carbon technologies,” said Dr. Dafnomilis.   

However, the scientists stressed that an investment increase in low-carbon technologies of only three years is insufficient to change the trajectory of global emissions on its own. This investment should be combined with strong climate policies aiming to limit the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Moreover, the green recovery packages will need to be tailored for each specific country in order to maximize sustainability and socio-economic benefits.

The study is published in the journal Frontiers in Climate

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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